Events

New Law Opens Doors for Regenerative Medicine in Texas


By Britni R. McAshan | October 9, 2017

Texas lawmakers and Doris Taylor, Ph.D., director of regenerative medicine research at the Texas Heart Institute, gathered at Rice University recently for a panel discussion to discuss the implications of the recently-passed Charlie’s Law.

Named in honor of the late Texas State Rep. Charlie Howard, Charlie’s Law (Texas HB 810) is the brainchild of state Rep. Tan Parker. Charlie’s Law expands the right-to-try laws in Texas, allowing patients with chronic and terminal illnesses access to experimental stem cell interventions in the state. This is the first law of its kind in the country.

“For me, I’ve really come to this from a personal story,” said Parker, a panelist at the Oct. 4 event. “My wife has suffered from chronic illness for many, many years, and through her eyes and her experiences I started learning about adult stem cells. That really opened my eyes to the importance of this for everybody. And for me, it became an issue fundamentally of medical freedom and medical liberty. Why can’t someone who is of age have the ability to sign off with regards to a proper medical release for something that can make such dramatic difference in their lives?”

Charlie’s Law passed unanimously in the 85th Legislature on June 12 and was signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott. At present, many Texans and other Americans are traveling around the world to receive stem cell therapies that have been unavailable and illegal in the United States. Stem cells are used used in a number of ways to treat cancer, neurological disorders, diabetes, heart disease and much more.

However beneficial stem cells may be for the future of human health, research in stem cells and regenerative medicine has been a source of controversy in the United States for decades. Patients would have to absorb the cost of these therapies, which could be harmful or ineffective.

In his introduction to the panel discussion, James T. Willerson, M.D., president emeritus at the Texas Heart Institute, explained just what stem cells are.

“All of us should recognize that we are products of stem cells,” Willerson said to the audience at the event, which was hosted by the Baker Institute’s Center for Health and Biosciences and the Texas Heart Institute. “So when one says, ‘I really don’t believe in stem cells,’ they really don’t understand. Around the age of 60, our stem cells become dysfunctional. Our maker gave us these stem cells to repair our heart, our spinal cord. And in life, when we often most need them, they don’t work.”

As one of the world’s best-known researchers in the field of regenerative medicine, Taylor said she looks forward to the doors Charlie’s Law will open for researchers and patients.

“One of the benefits of this law is that it is going to give us a lot more data,” said Taylor , who has been researching stem cells and regenerative medicine for more than two decades and is passionate about their ability to heal. But she cautioned her fellow panelists—Tan, state Sen. Paul Bettencourt, state Rep. Garnet Coleman, state Sen. Charles Schwertner and state Rep. John Zerwas—about the need for scrutiny and transparency in the research process.

“I’d like to remind people that regenerative medicine is unlike anything else we’ve ever dealt with in the world of medicine,” Taylor said. “It’s not like a drug you take and six hours later it is gone and you’ve metabolized it. Regenerative therapies stick around. … You can’t take them back. So I think what that means is that the burden of proof is a little bit higher.”

Taylor explained to the audience that a stem cell can do two things: it can make more of itself and it can differentiate into other kinds of cells. She quickly pointed out that a cell that can proliferate and differentiate is also the definition of a tumor cell.

“Personally, I am a cancer survivor,” Taylor said to the crowd. “I understand the need to find new therapies and I strongly believe in novel, innovative approaches, and yet, I want those vetted. When I needed a therapy, I called Dr. Willerson. I can call any doctor in town and find out whether or not it is safe and that is what we need for patients in this field. It’s our job to make sure innovation happens and it can happen safely. It’s incumbent upon us to be transparent. … Let’s publish negative data. You can’t publish a negative study right now—it’s hard to do—so you won’t know if a cell didn’t work, you only know if it worked.”




Social Posts

profile_image

Veterans Affairs

@DeptVetAffairs

Veterans use art to help others during their recovery https://t.co/vcMbVOHCEY via @NY1

2 hours ago
profile_image

BCMHouston

@bcmhouston

Managing an overactive bladder can be difficult while traveling for summer vacation. Dr. Alexander Pastuszak shares some tips on what you can do to travel more comfortably. https://t.co/0vIlkV3nlV #overactivebladder #traveltips

2 hours ago
profile_image

UTHealth

@UTHealth

In observance of Men’s Health Month, the experts at UTHealth and @UTPhysicians the clinical practice of @McGovernMed, have identified five things men need to know to keep their health in check: https://t.co/i7EIgZOhWM

3 hours ago
profile_image

Texas Children's

@TexasChildrens

Camp For All 2U brings summer camp to Texas Children's Hospital! Patients are invited to go canoeing, participate in archery and make new friends. Learn more from @HoustonChron : https://t.co/k1slUCnqAn

3 hours ago
profile_image

Memorial Hermann

@memorialhermann

Let’s talk about the Big Four. And we’re not referencing the number of major American pro sports leagues, gentlemen. Read more: https://t.co/INqCdH6RTT. #menshealthmonth https://t.co/iPcveD89NP

3 hours ago
profile_image

Veterans Affairs

@DeptVetAffairs

Q&A: @SecWilkie on VA Mission Act https://t.co/lEsiraS6o4 via @wvpublic

4 hours ago
profile_image

TAMU Health Sciences

@TAMHSC

Today we opened our brand new research facility! The Medical Research and Education Building II doubles the existing research space for the Health Science Center on the Bryan campus. Whoop! 👍Learn more about the MREB II → https://t.co/DtcNt2hlLY https://t.co/slDVZDeXXF

4 hours ago
profile_image

MD Anderson Cancer Center

@MDAndersonNews

Our @DavidHongMD explains how tisotumab vedotin works in treating #cervicalcancer: https://t.co/xebLn7m3cI @OncLive #gynsm #endcancer

4 hours ago
profile_image

University of Houston

@UHouston

RT @UHOnlineCoogs: The B.A and B.S in Psychology is offered online. These completion degrees are for students who have some college credit…

5 hours ago
profile_image

CHI St. Luke's Health

@CHI_StLukes

RT @KHOU: Get well soon, Mack! https://t.co/WDk43ZutWp

5 hours ago
profile_image

MD Anderson Cancer Center

@MDAndersonNews

Want to donate goods or services to MD Anderson to support our patients? Learn about what items can be donated: https://t.co/5HsnmWmxdt #endcancer

5 hours ago
profile_image

University of Houston

@UHouston

RT @UHadmissions: Another week means another #TributeTuesday! Christine Ha, @theblindcook won the @MASTERCHEFonFOX competition, and is also…

6 hours ago
profile_image

MD Anderson Cancer Center

@MDAndersonNews

@vigilcd @JLo We're thinking of you, Camille. Let us know if you need anything while you're here.

6 hours ago
profile_image

Veterans Affairs

@DeptVetAffairs

Today marks the 69-year anniversary of the #KoreanWar, which began on June 25, 1950.We thank all #Veterans who served during this conflict and honor their sacrifice.#HonoringVets https://t.co/r8vw723Mxg

6 hours ago
profile_image

Houston Methodist

@MethodistHosp

RT @Daily_Experts: Congratulations to Dr. Tetsuo Ashizawa of Houston Methodist Hospital -- Recognized as an Expertscape World Expert in Ata…

6 hours ago